The Balance Between an Old Show and New Ideas: The Twilight Zone 1980s (TV Showcase #18)

In 1983, nineteen years after the end of “The Twilight Zone”, along came The Twilight Zone: the Movie, which was basically four stories back-to-back: two remakes of the original show and two all-new stories. This was done to see if the audience of the 80s would be alright with a new TZ series (this exact thing was done with “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”). Despite a mixed response, “The Twilight Zone” was rebooted two years later on TV. Did it do the original show justice, or did it ruin it? Let’s find out.

“The Twilight Zone” 1980s (again, TZ for short) launched in 1985 and ran for 110 episodes over three seasons, ending in 1989. Like the original, TZ took different writers and actors and came up with original stories, ranging anywhere from five to forty-five minutes long. So how does this first of two TZ revivals compare with the Rod Serling classic?

Well, first of all, my whole spiel about a TV show being made like a movie (that I talked about in my Showcase on the original TZ) still applies here. Additionally, this show used innovative 3D art to create sets that looked alot bigger than they were (Irwin Allen was excellent at this when he did it in his shows); so if a story takes place in a spaceship, the vastness of space can be seen out the window, and while your mind can tell it isn’t real, it’s hard to figure out how much of its depth is actually there and how much isn’t. But this is a rabbit trail. Let’s get back on track.

Additionally, the TZ kept its use of unique storytelling, inserting the odd, scary, and unpredictable elements into the stories. One thing I found interesting was that the original TZ dealt alot with World War II, which was still fresh on the minds of a typical viewing audience of the 60s. Similarly, the TZ 1980s had alot of scary stories about Vietnam and a nuclear holocaust, both of which were very real things on the minds of viewers at the time. It was grappling with the manifestation of the reality of these ideas that gave the TZ its spooky charm.

I’d say that this revival of the TZ was almost just like the original. The parameters and expectations of the original show had been kept and maintained by this new revival. But while the TZ was hugely similar in style to the original, its new ideas and 80s-style acting gave it a good balance. Honestly, I felt that the similarity of the 80s TZ to the original put a bit of a strain on alot of the newer acting talent of the 80s, but not too much; it was a healthy amount of pushback, and just enough to make the show good.

So, “The Twilight Zone” 1980s was, in my eyes, a success. It’s a prime example of keeping the classic core of the original show in focus while still engaging the audience with original stories and new talent, altogether creating the same chilling and engrossing affect that “The Twilight Zone” was made to have. What do you think?

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